Tuna Quenelles & Sweetcorn Velouté

  • Time: 2 hours
  • Serves: 2
  • Level: medium

This may be pushing the boundaries on the tuna and sweetcorn theme, but the two flavours definitely standout. The smooth texture of both provides an impressive and delicious interpretation of a favourite combination.

Tuna and Sweetcorn - but not as you know it! The tuna is blended and formed into a quenelle and covered in a sweetcorn sauce.

What you need

For the quenelles

250g fresh tuna

1 medium egg white

125ml double cream

Nutmeg

Salt and white pepper

Smoked paprika

Parsley

For the choux pastry

60ml water

1.5 tbs butter

30g flour

1 medium egg

For the Velouté

2 cobs of fresh corn

1 small onion

1 stick of celery

500ml chicken or vegetable stock

150ml white wine

80ml crème frâiche

1 tbs butter

1/8 tsp turmeric

Salt and white pepper

 



Dad's Recipe Tales

There’s a knack to quenelles

One of the reasons I like to cook is because I seem to have a knack for many of the manual skills involved in the kitchen. Most of the time I am unaware of my dexterous aptitudes (I can sharpen knives and chop onions in my sleep) but occasionally I am forced to stop and concentrate, perhaps when filleting a John Dory, or boning a turkey, or… when forming quenelles.

Quenelles are a little tricky, even for experienced cooks. Consider the contestant on a television cookery competition who appeared to have drawn the easiest lot: a simple dish finished with a quenelle. Unfortunately, this contestant lost the knack for quenelles (and later their place in the competition). The hopes of fame scuppered on a quenelle.

I can sympathise; who ever thought it was a good idea to mould creamy amalgams between two spoons…  Why not use an ice cream scoop! Well, as it happens, ice cream scoops are only a little easier than two spoons – and still require a certain knack.

I am startled when I observe others failing at simple skills, such as cutting bread. How is it possible not to cut a cross-section into a three-dimensional rectangle that is perpendicular to the sides and parallel to the ends? I wince seeing others struggle with ordinary manipulations such as peeling an apple. It can’t be that difficult to remove the peel off without taking most of the fruit as well. Can it?

Some knacks need special equipment. Knives are a case in point. The remedy for most poor chopping skills is to buy a good quality sharp knife. Similarly, there is no point scoffing at the inability to make nice rose petal swirls on top of a cup cake unless the consistency of the icing has been professionally mastered and a suitable piping bag has been fitted with a Wilton No. 103 flower petal decorating tip. A rotating base is also useful.

Many knacks are skills learned from years of practice. I once watched a chef cutting hundreds of chickens into portions. There was no fiddling about trying to find a joint; the knife knew exactly where to go, and in a few quick strokes, the chef dissembled the chicken into neat even pieces. The only way to work through that amount of chicken was to quickly get the knack and then turn it into a repetitive skill.

Another time, I bought some whole fish and asked the fishmonger to fillet them: swish, flick, whoosh, chop – perfect fillets in seconds. I asked if he could tell me his secret. He took one of my fish and started filleting: at a critical stage, he said, “you have to ‘feel’ for the rib bones and then just ‘finesse’ your knife over the edge.” Sounded like a knack to me – but I suppose after a thousand fillets those delicate rib bones become as rigid as steel pins.

Kitchen skills are sometimes seen on television, although I suspect that most trained chefs – and proficient home cooks – keep these skills to themselves. They can be a double-edged sword…

I learned how to cut a mango into a cubed-hedgehog shape created from an inverted de-seeded half of mango, however, once, when I demonstrated this, I was accused of being a show off. The comment may have been ironic, but I now choose my mango-cutting moments carefully. I experienced similar chagrin once in a cafe. I unwittingly peeled an orange so well that I was able to re-form the single spiral of peel into a seamless globe, looking otherwise like an ordinary – and complete – orange. I knew of the pitfalls of showing off, however, I still wondered if the waitress might be impressed when clearing my plate. With a jolt, she clutched the plate, collapsing my faux orange, and without blinking, slid the lot straight into the bin. Served me right…

I do sometimes wonder if my kitchen knacks are undervalued. Maybe – just maybe – they might be recognised… Would people come from far and wide? Would they gasp in awe: “Come ye, come ye… watch in wonderment as the magnificent Mr WDC fries an egg over-easy without breaking or overcooking the yolk! Be amazed as he de-stones an avocado whilst keeping his fingers intact! And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, yes, let’s hear it, as he scoops the roundest ice cream balls the world has ever seen!”

Hmmm. Probably not. I guess I will go back quietly to shaping my quenelles…

How Dad Cooked It

Quenelles are based on a fish mousse – the same mouse mixture as for fish terrines. However, a quenelle needs binding with either eggs yolks, béchamel – or choux pastry (as I have used).

  1. Boil the corn until tender.
  2. Make the choux pastry. Put the water and a pinch of salt and the butter in a pan on a medium heat and bring gently to the boil, when the butter has melted, add in the flour and beat vigorously on the heat with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and comes away from the sides. Take off the heat and cool slightly. Beat the egg and add to the pastry. Beat again with the spoon until smooth. Weight the mixture and divide in half and set aside. NB: Only halve of the pastry will be used in the quenelles – but the remaining half is just enough for two medium eclairs.
  3. Make the mousse. Blitz the tuna with the egg white in a food processor or mini chopper. Pass through a sieve. Then put the mixture into a bowl and using a hand beater, add the cream and beat on low speed until mixed and smooth. Mix in half the choux pastry with a spoon until well blended. Mix in a good grating of nutmeg and plenty of salt and ground white pepper. Put in the fridge for half an hour to chill.
  4. Make the velouté. Chop the onion and celery and fry gently in olive oil on medium heat for 15 minutes – do not burn or brown. When the corn is cooked, cut the kernels from the cob. Put into a pan with the onion and celery. Add the wine and bring to the boil, reduce for a minute. Then add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes then take off the heat and cool slightly. Pour the cooked corn velouté into a blender and blend until very smooth. Pass through a sieve. Heat the smooth corn velouté into a pan with the turmeric, bring to a simmer, finish with crème frâiche, butter, and salt, and ground white pepper. take off the heat and keep warm.
  5. Make the quenelles. Bring a large pan of water to a gentle simmer. Take the mousse from the fridge and form into quenelles using two spoons. Carefully drop the quenelles in the simmering water (cook in batches). Cook until firm to the touch or they have reached 70C about 10 minutes.
  6. Arrange the quenelles in a dish and pour over hot veloute. Garnish with smoked paprika and parsley.
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